Blake Masters

It used to be easy to find primary source information on Blake Masters until he decided to run for senator in Arizona. Masters is a big follower of Peter Thiel, having written several blog articles of his lecture notes on computer company startups while Thiel was a lecturer at Stanford. The course CS183 yielded quite a lengthy blog posting and a book entitled Zero to One on Comptuer Startups, attributed to “Peter Thiel with Blake Masters”.

When Thiel left Stanford to start and run PayPal, Masters was taken on and worked closely with Thiel.  Thiel’s businesses grew to the point where he became influential in politics, and becoming influential in Donald Trump’s administration. However, apart from tax cuts and deregualtion, Trump didn’t accomplish much else. Masters was, until his entry into politics, Chief of Operations at Thiel Capital, an investment firm owned by Peter Thiel. He resigned from the Thiel group of companies to pursue his political career, with Thiel’s blessing, moving from California to Arizona, where the political climate is more favourable for a Trumpian like himself to be nominated for candidate for the GOP senate there.

Since his declaration to run for senator, searching for “Blake Masters” on Duck Duck Go yielded results that were overrun by recent aticles by news outlets and blogs about him and his Silocon Valley style of libertarianism, his designs for presidential candidacy, and his connections with Trump. His close connections with Thiel has benefitted him in his political ambitions, in that Thiel has contributed $10 million to a Super PAC toward his candidacy.

My impression of what has been written about Masters by recent press is that he is Trump with more character and discernment. The brains behind him, it appears, will always be Thiel. Masters has seemed to align his opinions and approach to white supremacy, and his opinions on second amendment rights to Alex Jones. However, he does this by questioning our agreed-upon assumptions about racial equality and gun control. He has said that “black people, frankly” are to blame for gun violence. He advocates against gun control even to the point of including “ghost guns” – home-made, untraceable firearms which are illegal in several states.

He also appears to be a fan of the writings of Ted Kaczynski, known as The Unabomber, listing his essay “Industrial Society and Its Future” as recommended reading.

All this to say if Masters is elected, what could possibly go wrong?

A momentary distraction: simonsinek.com

Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek

There is a fella who looks like he’s in his mid-thirties, but is actually 48 years old. His name is Simon Sinek, and he had given Ted talks, written motivational books, and appears to be a great motivational speaker, judging by the videos I’ve seen.

His background in cultural anthropology has done him well. He had a BA in that from Brandeis University, and later entered law school, but lost interest and went instead into advertising.

His anthro background shows in his talks, while his advertising background shows in his self-promotion. I went to his website simonsinek.com, and  his bio read more like just another promotion. A bit frustrating, so I went to Wikipedia. There was a short bio on his background. And short it was, since most of the high points in my article above are taken from the Wikipedia article.

For all of his talk on humanism, he appears to want the public to see Simon Sinek the “brand”. His leadership training for ICE officers and connections to the RAND Corporation seem to be downplayed. Not sure why, since these are surprisingly high connections in American government for a motivational speaker. Or maybe I just stated the problem.

I admire his sharp eye for social trends and his ability to be critical, but in a way that is positive and constructive. Whatever connecctions he may have in high places that might make us leery, it does not diminish his message and does not diminish his gifts as a speaker. His most touching speeches have to do with what he says about today’s youth.

His website currently promotes, not speeches to youth, but keynote speeches and workshops aimed at staffs of large companies, and workplace coaching. He is the author of 5 books, the most recent is The Infinite Game, published in 2019, a book aimed at businesses.

The latest on Elongate

I am conveniently renaming Elon Musk’s takover bid of Twitter from Limpgate to Elongate. Elongate was Elon’s preferred nomenclature for that time when he groped a stewardess or exposed himself, or, hell. I can’t be bothered to look that part up.

But it might be otherwise appropriate to name the Twitter takeover bid, one that has now on its way to the courts, Elongate as well. The Twitter board hopes it can force Musk to seal the deal, and frankly it is so full of missteps and stupidity, that Twitter just might get its way and either extract 40 billion out of him or at the very least, the 1 billion it will cost for Elon to walk away. Elon, being uber-wealthy, can afford tie this up in the courts for years, therby, uh, elongating his freedom from judgement in the public eye.

The reason Elon gives is that it’s about the number of bots. But I just think he wanted to buy his way into a power grab. Buying Twitter would be like buying his own printing press, allowing freedom of speech to him and his friends. Being a private company where he can do anything he wants, he can selectively “moderate” the users he doesn’t like, and allow that unfettered free speech he craves to users he does like. He is a businessman, not a philosopher. He just needs to point to users he hopes to bring back into the fold, such as Donald Trump, and point to him and say that allowing Trump unfettered access is proof that he honors free speech. The appearance of free speech is all the free speech Musk needs.

We all kind of sense this. Since when does an automaker become so passionate about unfettered free speech? Does he allow it for his Tesla employees? The truth is that the 70,000 Tesla employees in the United States are not unionized, and is the only car manufacturer in the United States to operate without any trade union representation. How he sees their rights, free speech and bargaining power is certainly obfuscated by Musk’s bravado and hubris regarding unions in his press releases (or really, his Twitter messages – same thing these days).

Now facing a stock market in freefall (Tesla’s stock has plummeted 34% since January), along with layoffs, and the economy tanking generally, we see a more compelling reason for Elon to want to pull out at the last minute. It is about profit, as it is always about profit. And now he is trying to use the courts to weasel out of the deal, hoping that Twitter will give up as legal costs mount, and the 1 billion dollar severance is no longer cost effective. I think that will take a long time.

Youtube Comments on Summerhead

The Cocteau Twins were a Scottish band active between 1979 and 1997. The original lineup consisted of Robin Guthrie and Will Heggie. They added Elizabeth Fraser later on, who gave the band their signature airy, wordless, but emotion-filled vocals. The Twins first signed on to the 4AD label after being auditioned by John Peel and Ivo Watts-Russel. They first contributed to the multi-band effort It’ll End In Tears, with Song to the Siren and Another Day.

From time to time, I indulge myself in listening to my favourite Twins tune, and this summer, it was its namesake, Summerhead, from the album Four Calandar Cafe, released in 1993. It was a song which appeared at a certain period in my life where I felt I was making a decision to go on a certain path, never to return. I was getting married, going into a stage of my life where I had to find work, and take on serious responsibilities. This song, with Fraser’s signature wordless vocals, conveyed the mood, the fear, the uncertainty, the excitement, the passion, and the heartbreak that was that new stage of my life. But I was listening to this song on YouTube, so I fell into the temptation to read the comment section. It seemed that there were lots of people whom the song hit them in a similarly powerful way. Here are their thoughts, with names removed:

  • my favorite song of theirs. the lyrics hit like a breath of fresh air. first time i heard them i was sobbing
  • One of [Elizabeth Frazer’s] most heartbreaking melodies..
  • So full of human love and loss, happiness and despair. My brain feels so much with this music than anything else I have listened to. A Cocteau Twin song is like human emotion in a bottle, being released all at once in a beautiful explosion within the heart.
  • I don’t know why, there are certain sad memories I have with this whole album, but, somehow, I feel happy with this songs. Perhaps I feel they were there to me to listen and sweep away everything else.
  • I can’t explain what Cocteau Twins do with my emotions, but they are honestly the most amazing thing that has happened to this earth.
  • I’ve never been loved by anyone but I imagine it feels like this album.

Jeff Buckley (1966-1997) and Elizabeth Frazer got together as the Cocteau Twins were breaking up, and co-wrote “All Flowers In Time Bend Toward the Sun” (unreleased, 1995-96), which I heard on YouTube as well. More comments:

  • Elizabeth Fraser didn’t think this version was ready for release, and every time I hear it, I think I’m listening in on a great secret.
  • Despite Elizabeth Fraser’s misgivings about this recording, I (and it seems many others) honestly feel that this is the perfect version of this song. Putting a whole bunch of production into a song like this would probably make it feel much less immediate and heartfelt.
  • I read an interview with Jeff where he talked about his music. I’d never heard a note of his music yet his words went straight from the page to my heart. He was playing that same night, one concert in Sydney at the Phoenician Club. I didn’t know it was impossible to find tickets for it. I never went to concerts. But I had to go to this one. To go to be with this soul. I went & stood by the entry door gazing into the Club. A man came to the door and said he had some complimentary ticket & would I like one. So I entered as if I was meant to be there. Like coming home to hear my dear beautiful heart brother sing. Jeff was real. A one in a million so rare one. I miss him.
  • Liz’s giggle at the start is heartbreaking. It then goes on to become the most beautiful duet i’ve ever heard. This is what music was always meant to be. Magical.

Lyrics to “All Flowers In Time Bend Toward The Sun” – Tim Buckley and Elizabeth Fraser (contributed by a commenter)

My eyes are
A baptism
Oh, I am fuse
And sing her
Into my thoughts
Oh, phantom elusive thing

Oh, all flowers in time bend towards the sun
I know you say that there's no-one for you
But here is one
All flowers in time bend towards the sun
I know you say that there's no-one for you
But here is one, but here is one...
Here is one

Aaah
La da dada...

Oh, all flowers in time bend towards the sun
I know you say that there's no-one for you
But here is one
All flowers in time bend towards the sun
I know you say that there's no-one for you
But here is one, but here is one...

Keep it going in me, wicked traveller
Fading farther from me
With your face in my window glow
Oh, Where will you weep for me?
Sweet willow

It's ok to be angry
But not to hurt me
Your happiness
Yes, yes, yes
Darling, darling, darling
Oooh...

All flowers in time bend towards the sun
I know you say that there's no one for you
But here is one
All flowers in time bend towards the sun
I know you say that there's no one for you
But here is one
All flowers in time bend towards the sun
I know you say that there's no one for you
But here is one
All flowers in time bend towards the sun
I know you say that there's no one for you
But here is one
But here is one
But here is one...

More things to worry about

y2.d40 | worry lines | the kind of lines you get on your for… | Flickr

House Prices in the GTA.

Oh God! House prices are falling in the GTA! The Toronto Star has its hair on fire! The shock was never that house  prices were soaring at the 30% level per annum; the shock is that prices are falling by a maximum of 7% over the past 5 months. In Milton, where this maximum is experienced, the average house price has fallen from $1.48 million dollars to $1.37 million last month. While that, along with inflation and rising interest rates are likely to cause remorsefulness among these new home buyers who sank their life savings into their properties, it doesn’t do anything to actually make homes more affordable. If 1.5 million was far out of reach, then 1.4 million is also out of reach. These prices are out of reach for me, even at half that price. Indeed, average condos are half that, and would still need to be half of that half before I can discuss anything (and we are not even talking about condo fees).

Monkey Pox.

We now have a new disease to worry about. According to the American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the proper spelling is “monkeypox” (one word). The proper spelling may be a tomato/tom-AH-to kind of thing, as I have seen “chicken pox” spelled as two words, which tells me that the one-word rule is not consistently applied. It turns out in the Congo, mokeypox began when they tried to eradicate smallpox. That was back in the 1970s, but incidents have been recorded as far back in 1958 in colonies of monkeys, hence the name. Cases in North America are rare, and mostly tied to people travelling from Central Africa to this continent. The first time monkeypox was observed inside North America was in a person travelling from Canada to the United States, five days ago. It is a weak virus, transmissible only by skin contact.

Elongate.

“Elongate” is what Elon Musk wants you to call that time back in 2016 when he exposed himself to a flight attendant, and was later sued by her. Just before the case went to court, the flight attendant was bought off for a quarter million so that he wouldn’t need to face a court hearing.

Limpgate.

I am imagining that this would need to be the name for the controversy over Musk’s hostile takeover of Twitter, but has now placed his purchase on hold, as he has now seen to his horror that Tesla’s stock was becoming, uh, limp, going by Elon Musk’s nomenclature. His purported reason for delaying his hostile takeover bid was because he was busy looking into the number of automated bots on that site (and thus decreasing the value of his bid to 30 billion). I think the former reason is more realistic. And on the surface, you might think that his committment to unfettered free speech is great and altruistic, but in practice, that philosophy of letting everyone post what they want without any form of refereeing is what led to toxic cesspools like 4chan and 8chan, which led to people posting depictions and comments of explicit racism and child porn. This is why Twitter, and all crowdsourced internet content needs to be moderated. I am guessing that Musk is not so much “investigating the bots” as he is being schooled on the importance of content moderation, putting a damper on his free speech ambitions. And then let’s see if this idea of a hostile takeover is, uh, pulled out at the last minute.

Derechoes.

A derecho is the name given to that storm of two days ago with heavy rain and 120 km/h gusts which extended from around London, Ontario, ripping through the Greater Toronto Area including Mississauga and Oakville, and going as far east as Quebec City. It left in its wake many dead, fallen branches, trees torn at the trunks and destroying homes and property. I would have just said it was a heavy rainstorm with high winds, but I understand that nowadays that weather reporting has become big business, they like to give each kind of storm a fancy name to spice up the reporting a bit.

Conservatives in Ontario.

The election is underway, and the Conservatives are slated to return to power, given their healthy lead in the polls. The best thing to happen to the Conservatives are the Liberals and NDP, who have had at best a clumsy leadership and not the huge following you would expect after Ford doing everything in his power to toady up to big business and his friends constructing outer ring superhighways which will take a toll on farms, The Greenbelt and other protected areas. Ford couldn’t hold his own in the most recent public debate; in addition no word of condolence for anyone whose lives were lost in the storm of two days ago, but none of that seems to matter.

There is a silver lining. There really has been no riding-by-riding polling to get a more fine-grained sense of public political preferences, and this can matter as the most persuasive campaigns are done on foot, meeting people door-to-door, or in public places. While this seems incremental, pollsters say it can make a big difference in the actual outcome of the election. Stop the Split reports that the opposition to the Conservatives would have been starker had the left (the NDP, Greens and Liberals) agreed to form a coalition. Alas, that is not in the works.

In 2018, one riding went Green, 40 went to NDP, and 7 went to the Liberals. Many of the ridings the PCs won in the last election were by thin margins, thanks to the votes being split between NDP and Liberals. If there was a coalition, the PCs would have trailed by 60 seats. But even mitigating this is that Stephen Del Duca leading the Liberals is a kind of blase leader who engenders no spark in the public realm, being seen more as an interim leader similar to Stephane Dion or Michael Ignatieff were for the Federal Liberals in the early 2000s, which extended the minority rule of Conservative leader Stephen Harper well beyond his “best before” date.

The Laws of Life 5

A law of Murphy. One of many.

Murphy’s Law

“If anything can go wrong, it will.” This is the law named after aerospace engineer Edward Aloysius Murphy, Jr. (1918-1990). It is the law which encapsulates the seemingly chaotic nature of inanimate objects in the popular imagination. That wasn’t how Murphy intended to have his law interpreted. As an aerospace designer specializing in safety-critical systems, he invoked it as a philosophy of defensive design against worst-case scenarios for making durable, robust systems.

finagle’s law

Despite this, Murphy’s law has spawned many satirical and jocular interpretations over the decades. There was Finagle’s Law, for example. While there was no one named Finagle behind the law’s name, science fiction editor John W. Campbell, Jr. (1910-1971) used the law repeatedly in his commentaries. The law is a slight extension of Murphy’s law: “If anything can go wrong, it will — at the worst possible moment.” This is also often referred to as Sod’s corollary to Murphy’s Law. Not sure who “Sod” is.

resistentialism

There is Resistentialism, a jocular theory which states that inanimate objects have a “spiteful character”, and they exhibit a high degree of malice towards humans. This is probably well-known to anyone who has spilled coffee on themselves.

hanlon’s (heinlein’s ?) razor

As an antidote to the nutty Resistentialistic theories involving objects with wills of their own, there is Hanlon’s Razor, which reminds us to “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” “Hanlon” is probably a corruption of “Heinlein”. Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, who wrote in a novel Logic of Empire in 1941: “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity”. It turns out that it can be attributed to someone named Hanlon, however. A fellow named Robert J. Hanlon of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

I invoke something close to Hanlon’s Razor whenever I can’t find something I am looking for. Rather than thinking “someone stole it” or “someone moved it”, or “it grew legs and walked away”, I find it entirely adequate to think that I have misplaced it and it will turn up, and it usually does.

Variations on Murphy’s law

  • When you attempt to fix a minor malfunction you will cause a major malfunction.
  • It’s on the other side. This can be either Preudhomme’s Law of Window Cleaning, or the Fant Law of Searching for Keys in Your Pocket.
  • Lost articles will only show up once you replace it. This is seen by some as a confirmation of objects that grow legs and walk away, since once they “know” I replaced it, they walk right back into view.
  • The cost of the repair to a broken item is in direct proportion to its original cost. And the cheap, crappy stuff you have lasts forever.
  • Enough research will tend to support your theory. I am sure you will find a source somewhere that says inanimate objects have wills and intentions, and can grow legs. Somewhere.
  • Cargill’s 90-90 rule of software programming:The first 90% of the software project takes 90% of the time. The last 10% takes the other 90%. Where did the other 90% come from? Yeah, that’s kind of the point. And just in case you were wondering, they weren’t referring to 90% of the remaining 10%. This one was attributed to Tom Cargill of Bell labs, as to the tendency of projects to appear to meet deadlines, until they don’t.
  • Logic allows us to arrive at the wrong conclusion without being ashamed.
  • When all else fails, read the instructions.

The Laws of Life 4

Kinds of knowing

There is knowing that you know;
Knowing that you don’t know;
Not knowing that you know;
and not knowing that you don’t know. This last one is the most dangerous.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

This is the idea where some people fancy themselves as experts in some field when in fact they are incompetent. They in fact don’t have the competence to know they are incompetent. We are all victims to this effect, to some extent. Many studies have confirmed, for example, that most of us believe we have above-average intelligence, which is statistically impossible. But at the extreme is anosognosia. Anosognosia is associated more with brain defects that seems more like dementia. The sufferer is rendered unaware of their dementia or that their cognitive skills are in decline.

The Big Fish, Little Pond Effect (BFLPE)

Being highly competent among a small group of less competent individuals is better for one’s self-esteem than the same person being among a larger group of more highly competetent people.  BFLPE is related to the Dunning-Kruger Effect in that manner, except that it is a factor affecting one’s actual success in their chosen field, since it links directly to self-esteem.

Sutor, ne ultra crepidam

Latin: “Shoemaker, not beyond the shoe.” Or, don’t make pronouncements beyond your expertise. This kind of sums up the last two ideas.

The Laws of Life 3

The Dilbert Principle

Scott Adams

“The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.” This was coined by Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strips. I have seen this manifested in my life of people promoted to managerial positions. In 1996, Scott Adams, also an MBA graduate from Berkeley, wrote a book named The Dilbert Priniciple (Amazon link) which, while satirical in intent, is often recommended or required reading at many business schools, and has sold more than a million copies and was a New York Times bestseller for the better part of a year. This is very closely related to …

The Peter Principle

Laurence J. Peter

This is the idea that all employees will rise to the level of their own incompetence. It is apt, since what do organizations do with their best employees? They promote them to management. But it becomes a very different job, not a job which uses the skills that made them so great at the previous job. While the Peter Principle allows that management were at least competent at their previous job; the Dilbert Principle allows for the possibility that management is formed out of a need for damage control. The Peter Principle (direct PDF link), a book co-written by Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990) and Raymond Hull, is the 1969 book which first came up with this.

The Laws of Life 2

Brooks’s Law

Fred Brooks came up with this rule in his 1975 book “The Mythical Man-Month”

Adding more manpower to a late software project makes it later. This is because 1) it takes time for new people in a project to become productive – they need time to learn about what has already been done and to become integrated with other team members; 2) the number of required communication channels increases factorially with the number of people added; 3) there is only so much division of labour that can be done before co-workers start getting in each other’s way.

Doctorow’s Law

Cory Doctorow

“Anytime someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn’t give you the key, they’re not doing it for your benefit.” Cory Doctorow was saying this around 2003 in the context of DRM locks placed on some digital media purchased in a store or online, such as movies or audio recordings. Doctorow was an advocate of file sharing. DRM = “Digital Rights Management”.

The laws of life 1

This will be a short series exploring the laws which seem to govern our lives. There will be one or more laws, followed by some kind of discussion.

These are taken from a canonical list of eponymous laws mentioned on Wikipedia.

Betteridge’s law of headlines

“any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no'”. To Continue Ian Betteridge’s quote: “The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bullshit, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it.”

Examples are: “Is Trump going to improve Obamacare?” or “Should you pay $20,000 for that perfect Espresso shot?” or “Will robots replace workers by 2030?”or “Should we treat incels as terrorists?”

Examples exclude any title that is a “Wh” question (as in Who, What, Where, When, Why), or a “How” question, where the article might actually have something worthwhile to offer. You have to instead look for that “clickbait” intent.

This also relates to clickbait videos on YouTube. I rarely watch any video whose title ends in a question mark, because I can sense what’s coming. Mostly bafflegab, with little actual information or evidence. One that I like is a recent video on my science feed that asks the question: “Has quantum mechanics proved that reality does not exist?” By applying Betteridge’s Law, you can save yourself 11 minutes you will never get back. Same for one of my Tolkien vloggers, who asks the questions “Did Gandalf really die? And does it matter?” No to both questions. It’s genius.

Getting your ass handed to you

I have become a fan of author Jon Ronson, a Welsh writer of nonfiction, or more like a journalist who writes books, I suppose. His chosen topics center mostly around the messier, disordered parts of human nature. He deals with the aspects of our experience where we often fear to tread: from online shaming and bullying, to the mentality of psychopaths, to our very own ability to categorize people as our power over them.

The latest I have heard from him was a series of audio podcasts which I had downloaded from Audible called The Last Days of August, a biography of events surrounding the suicide of porn actress August Ames in 2017. Ames was known as an A-List porn star, married to producer Kevin Moore, a man more than 20 years her senior. It is notable that there were 5 suicides of porn actors in the month after Ames’s suicide.

Generally the podcast Last Days spread out over 7 half-hour episodes what could have easily been condensed to half that, at least in my opinion. It isn’t that there was “fluff” in the piece necessarily, it is just that there was too much detail, and by episode 4, even Ronson is questioning whether his digging around the porn industry was too obsessive.

Well, if Ronson was looking for the messier side of humanity to root around in for stories, he certainly found it. We see the messiest possible intersection between messed-up porn actors and actresses, messed-up producers and directors, the vindictiveness of the business generally, manipulation, fear of STDs, fear of each other, and fear-mongering both real and imagined, in all possible directions. What truth could possibly be dredged up from such an unholy mess of people and situations?

But around the 17:20 minute mark of Episode 4, he interviews a porn actress named Lisa Ann, another actress considered to be an “A-Lister”. Her real name appears to be Lisa Ann Corpora, a dark-haired actress known for her porn parody of Alaska politician Sarah Palin. Lisa Ann was one of the rare actresses who lasted in the industry well beyond the 3-4 years that most women last. She owned her own porn production company. Lisa Ann was in her mid-40s at the time of the interview and had just come out of her second retirement (or was it her third?) to sign up with the production company Evil Angel, the same company August and husband Kevin worked for before August’s suicide.

But what comes out of the interview with Lisa Ann was a lightning bolt of clarity in all of the messiness and confusion of the story.

“99.9% of what you are going to hear from interviews is fucking bullshit. Everybody fucking lies. They are the most uneducated, shady fucking criminal people I’ve ever engaged with,” Lisa Ann says. You can say that she is trying to protect her employer, Evil Angel, and in turn her job with these words, but discrediting porn actors in this way amounts to remarks that are uncontroversial, and it is an easy sell. Elsewhere in the series, the porn industry was self-described by those in it as adult actors who have never resolved their childhood issues, being managed by other adults who suffer from the same lack of resolve of childhood issues. Essentially describing the industry as grown-up children managing other grown-up children.

After a few remarks giving her angle on all of those things causing Ronson suspicions about the possibility of Kevin controlling August in several ways, and the pressure of the AVN Tradeshow on August, she continues with “It’s a good thing to have a protective man like Kevin involved because there are many things that are involved in the business that should not be involved but are involved. Again, none of this is going to bring her back to life. None of this is going to make Kevin’s life easier, and none of us are perfect. We have lost a valuable person in the industry, we have an example poorly set for losing 5 girls in a month; they’re all gone now, and we can’t bring any of them back.

“Prodding at the animals in the cage and trying to find out what you can learn from a bunch of people who can’t even know the fucking truth — these are people who don’t even know their own truth — you’re talking about people who do drugs on the regular — People who do drugs and the gray matter in their minds and the things that it affects and the clarity that they don’t have are not respectable people to give their opinion on the death of another human being that they probably weren’t good to, weren’t close with, didn’t care about, and now they’re willing to talk about her.

“Let me put it to you this way: 75% of the industry is on the edge enough to commit suicide at any time. That’s the way you have to look at it. I’ve interacted sexually with more people that are no longer here than probably anybody in this world. It’s not that much of a story with one girl.”

It was chilling and sobering. The death of August and the cyberbullying story angle that Ronson was pursuing now seemed like small potatoes compared with the much larger and starker picture Lisa Ann was painting. It wasn’t just that a bunch of B and C-list porn actors were piling onto August in a short-lived cyberbullying frenzy; the real story is that the porn industry is dark, evil, sick, remorseless, and unempathetic at worst — confused and rudderless at best; and that the Twitter storm is just a small part of this story. Not only is it not much of a story with one girl; but it is likely not much of a story about August either. Ronson will never get the truth from interviewing people in the industry, because when people are willing to speak, it is mostly out of self-interest or self-promotion. Even allegations of August’s mental illness appeared in Ronson’s story to be just that, allegations based on circumstantial evidence and hearsay. This is not to deny that it is entirely possible that August along with a good chunk of the porn industry is mentally unstable; it is just that he didn’t seem to establish this for August all that well.

But Lisa Ann, not wanting to discuss that dark side more than she absolutely wants to, makes an effort to be more positive by breaking with the discussion by saying in the next breath:

“The story is the forward thinking future of not gossiping, not bringing up darkness, trying to look towards the light, and trying to instil a positive mindset, and trying to create groups. You can’t say that this piece of yours is working toward the future; you’re not going to save anybody. They’re already dead. You’re only going to make more people get closer to the edge, and we’ll have more deaths after this comes out. Because everyone is going to feel so guilty for the lies that they told.

“The end result for you is you want to blame Kevin for August’s suicide, right?”

“No”, Ronson insists. While it was Kevin’s idea to get Ronson to pursue the story, Ronson had to pursue the “Kevin is controlling” angle for his own journalistic integrity.

“Your using our industry and the weakness of our industry and the fear involved to create a story for yourself. I’ve seen this too many times before, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re using the dummies.”

The accusation of Ronson “using the dummies” was an unfair jab. Lisa Ann had otherwise said a lot that any viewer ought to digest, and did it in a way that would make a pretty sound conclusion for anyone seeking a story on the porn industry. And there were 3 more episodes to go after this. There wasn’t much more to say. Suddenly August’s story didn’t seem that interesting anymore. 3 more episodes of Ronson prodding and probing around the many angles to the the death of August, not adding much that was memorable. He definitely needs an editor.

But I can say that overall, Lisa Ann definitely handed his ass to him. It should have been a wake-up call to not focus so narrowly on one person’s psychological state, shaming, cyberbullying, and controlling spouses. There was an infinitely bigger story and he was missing it.

There was a lack of authoritativeness throughout this series that reduced the entire series into mostly he-said, she-said dialogues. There was no foundation, and even Lisa Ann’s dialog, while having the feeling of truth, still boiled down to “Lisa Ann’s opinion”, which I found deflating. It is possible that Ronson, a person who has given talks at Oxford University, Ted talks, and has been a guest on numerous podcasts and TV talk shows, is out of his depth here, and it should be taken as a life lesson, learn from it, and move on. And he has seemed to since. Apart from his public appearances on radio and TV, he has continued to make podcasts for the BBC. He is married with one son.

Remarkable Indices

A summary of some notable trends from the Harper’s Index over the past two months.

Percentage of US adults who describe their health as “excellent”: 25

Percentage change since 2019 in the number of Americans who describe their mental health as “excellent”: –21

Percentage increase since 2019 in ER visits for suicide attempts by adolescent boys: 4

By adolescent girls: 51

Portion of therapists who say their clientele has increased since the start of the pandemic: 9/10

Who have been forced to decrease their hours because of personal issues: 1/5

Minimum portion of Americans aged 18 to 25 who are extremely lonely nearly all of the time: 3/5

Amount spent, per year, to incarcerate someone in a New York City jail: $556,539

Amount spent last November on a private island in the metaverse: $398,685

Factor by which PR specialists outnumber journalists in the United States: 6

Percentage of people alive today who have never used the internet : 37

Minimum number of U.S. immigration history requests held up because of pandemic rules on records storage: 350,000

Portion of Americans who have favorable views of both capitalism and socialism: 1/5

Who have unfavorable views of both capitalism and socialism: 1/5

Percentage of Americans who approve of labor unions: 68

Percentage change since 2019 in U.S. labor union membership: –4

Estimated percentage decrease in U.S. condom sales since the start of the pandemic: 8

Portion of Americans earning less than $50,000 who cite wedding costs as a reason for not marrying: 3/10

Number of the one hundred most-watched TV broadcasts last year that were NFL games: 92

Factor by which Americans spent more time listening to the radio last year than to podcasts: 6

Amount of time, in years, viewers spent watching livestreams of Grand Theft Auto V on Twitch last year: 214,309

Minimum number of total views for TikTok videos tagged with #MentalHealth: 25,100,000,000

Portion of U.S. adults who have struggled with basic decisions like what to eat or wear since the start of the pandemic: 1/3

Of U.S. millenials: 1/2

Portion of U.S. adults who say their closets contain many things they will never wear again: 3/4

Percentage decrease in spending on dental care since the start of the pandemic: 9.5

Portion of U.S. pet owners who say they take their pet’s health more seriously than their own: 7/10

Who have sought acupuncture for their pet: 4/10

Who have purchased CBD products for their pet: 3/10

Minimum number of dogs in the United States on anti-anxiety medication: 10,350,000

Of cats: 1,800,000

Minimum number of hamsters executed by the Hong Kong government because of COVID-19 exposure: 2,229

A Cake that’s Pi

To celebrate Pi day (March the 14, or 3-14), some ‘net denizens have gotten to celebrating with a cake. A pi cake. A cake shaped like pi. A pi made of cake.

A Pi made of Cake

Others took the more normative route and created a Pi this year made of actual pie. So boring!

And there are more than enough “Pi” pies.

While we are on the topic, I know of no one who celebrates the other “Pi” day, the one on the 22nd of July, or 22/7.

The 2021 Release of the last of the JFK documents

There has been a slow release of previously top-secret documents relating to the JFK assassination. The official telling of the story of the assassination, ranging from the “Magic Bullet” theory to the silencing or killing of anyone who could tell the truth, left a void for many different stories. Was there a conspiracy to kill the president, or wasn’t there? The unofficial line, outlined by Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, backed up by a substantial part of what was known by th early 1990s, appeared to make more sense, but because it was a theory that involves a conspiracy, it was dismissed by Magic Bullet supporters as a “conspiracy theory”.

The assassination happened the year I was born, and after the Warren Report, the documents, it was said, would not be released for another half century or more.

Since 2017, there has been a trove of documents released to The National Archives in Washington, with digitized versions placed on the internet. The most recent release has been in December of 2021. The planned release was delayed a few months due to covid. The National Archives states that they have released over 5 million pages of documents related to the assassination.

Allergic to Paris Hilton

Paris holding up one of her favourite cup towels. Why does she wear fingerless gloves in all of her cooking videos?

The video series “Cooking With Paris”, formerly on YouTube, had since graduated to Netflix, lasting for only six episodes in 2021, purported to be about cooking with other celebs, but only ends up being about a rich chick f*cking around in the kitchen. The only thing that might keep the viewer on edge is whether she is holding her utensils correctly, or whether she will hurt herself.

Watched “Sliving Lasagna” (5 million + views). “Sliving” is a word she invented to combine “slaying” with “living your best life”. Her video contains no effort on her part or anyone else’s, no useful information about cooking lasagna except as a masterclass in self-inflicted food poisoning, and will not make anyone a better cook. The only thing of value is the spectacle of watching Paris Hilton making a spectacle of herself. But 5 million views and 30,000 comments ensure enough viewer engagement to indicate quite strongly that Paris will get the last laugh, all the way to the bank.

Some remarkable stuff casually observed on the video:

    1. Holding the dog on her entrance, but not washing her hands before cooking after putting down the dog.
    2. Camera pans past an apron on the counter which she never wears, then focuses on a bust of Marilyn Monroe which just happened to be in the middle of the counter.
    3. After some time cooking, washes her hands, with her fingerless gloves still on. She never takes her gloves off for any reason. She has been observed putting latex gloves over them from time to time.
    4. Barilla lasagna – okay, I suppose, but not really the fancy stuff. Go-to college student fare. She uses the entire 900g box, and places them in a pot of cold water.
    5. Uses about 4 pounds of beef, and easily 6 pounds of ricotta cheese. Not sure how if she is preparing for a banquet and has sufficient bakeware to contain it all.
    6. Paris says at one point: “I wish the cheese would be shredded. But whatever. Life can be worse.” It illustrates the passion she brings to the kitchen.

 

The most happenin’ place to get a Covid shot

Zanzibar
Club Zanzibar. Covid figher by day …

Yes, in downtown Toronto, on 359 Yonge Street between Dundas and Gerrard Streets, is a strip club which has been repurporsed as a place to get your covid shots. Club Zanzibar on Yonge Street is the latest and most visible in a series of strip clubs which have been repurposed as “low-barrier” vaccination sites as they are being shut down to prevent the spread of Covid.

You don’t need an appointement, ID, or proof of address to get a Pfizer or Moderna shot here. It is open from 10AM to 6PM daily, in conjunction with The University Health Network partnering with, predictably, Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project.

Who would be helped by this act of generosity? Well, not just members of the sex trade. Homeless people as well, who also by and large have no ID or fixed address. And not to mention undocumented workers. It’s not just something the United States has. It is also open to the general public as well. Anyone can get a first, second, or booster shot here without the higher barrier to entry that would leave out the most vulnerable in society, who often have no identification papers, and no fixed address.

… and strip club at night.

The provincial government, like reactionary governments everywhere, often lose sight of the fact that the poor also get covid and can spread it to the rich. Getting rid of infectious disease means getting rid of it for everyone. No government in human history has ever gotten rid of prostitution, so you might as well make sure they are protected against disease so they don’t pass it on to their richer clients.

Zanzibar will try its best to accommodate those with mobility issues, but as a warning, their bathrooms are not wheelchair-accessible.

The war against silence

Glenn McDonald

Just thought that was a great title for a weekly music review and discussion column (now archived) by Glenn McDonald from Cambridge, Massachusetts. I used to enjoy his meandering musings about all things musical. He was a writer given to quixotic self-expression, but it passed the time, if you allow yourself to be carried along with it.  It takes him a fair bit of time to get around to his point, but sooner or later, he has one. I’ve read articles from him from many obscure artists, and some not-so-obscure artists such as Laurie Anderson, which makes his articles on Boston, Dolly Parton and Shania Twain rather jarring.  But still worth reading. He had also been a regular contributor to an online music magazine column in The Village Voice called Pazz and Jop, which had annual music lists curated by music critic Robert Christgau. The lists differed from the Billboard music lists in that it leaned more havily toward alternative and avant-garde music. The list couldn’t rely on album sales, but instead relied on what appeared to be a cryptic statistical system. Whatever the system, they appeared to be on to something, since the list was popular with musicians and music critics worldwide.

How to clear 'Recently Played' in your Spotify library ...McDonald’s TWAS column folded early in 2013, and Pazz and Jop had its last publication in 2018. And now we know Glenn McDonald as the brains behind Spotify. The 1,387 categories that Spotify generates are based on computers whose algorithms classify the music into the categories, genres, and sub-genres which clients could pick and choose from. And going by the success of Spotify, it seems to work quite successfully. I also find out that he was the brains behind the website Every Noise At Once, mentioned years ago in this journal. I am beginning to think that iTunes, who had braindead classifications which I discussed in an earlier article, may have been a casualty of this make-it-up-as-you-go-along style of classification rather than a beneficiary. If someone told me at a cocktail party that they like “nu-gaze” or “neo mellow” music, I would just think of them as pretentious and just trying to sound cool and edgy by name -dropping a few of Spotify’s 1300+ musical categories that may have popped into his or her head. I am sure the musicians themselves don’t set out to be the next great musicians in the “electrofox” or “fuzz pop” genre or whatever. These are the names that exist in the imagination of maybe Glenn McDonald and a few of his Spotify colleagues, with the classification itself being the product of a Spotify algorithm. No musician, and no other humans, have had a hand in classifiying their music if it is on Spotify.

As an update, The Village Voice upon which Pazz and Jop was based has been rebooted only a few months ago, sans Pazz and Jop. But gone are nearly all of the writers that made it a national  institution for alternative music, voices and lifestyle. According to their “Emeritus” page of contributors, and apart from Christgau, there were notable cartoonists Matt Groening, Tom Tomorrow, and Robert Crumb, and one of the founders was Norman Mailer. There were also novelists such as David Foster Wallace, Tom Robbins, and numerous other writers, music and cultural critics. Wikipedia lists other contributors, but they don’t check out with the emeritus list. For example, while it is plausible that Allan Ginsburg, Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, James Baldwin, e. e. cummings, and Katherine Anne Porter may have contributed articles in the past, one would have expected these names to be prominent on the emeritus page, but none of their names are there.

A late shipment of records and a minor techie war story

The fine folks at Omnivore finally filled my order for Game Theory records and CDs. In total, I purchased 2CDs, 1 LP vinyl record and an EP vinyl record. I had been waiting for almost a year, and after their losing my shipment, a replacement shipment was issued, and a package arrived at my door earlier this week. I paid nothing extra. Nothing was lost except the time waiting.

Technics SL-10 Turntable
The Technics SL-10 Turntable.

The LP was called Across the Barrier of Sound, a colored vinyl LP which looked unusual when I unpackaged it: a clear pink vinyl LP. I placed it on my turntable, and within a couple of minutes of play, the features of my turntable which made it such a technological wonder in 1979 now became a hinderance.

The turntable is a Technics SL-10, with controls on the lid, and no tonearm. Instead, the magnetic cartridge is attached to the lid, and it moves along a stainless steel track, guided digitally. It is the only direct drive turntable I know of that can be played sideways and even upside-down without a problem (I’ve tried it), much like the portable CD players which just started to come on the market back in the day. Except, the SL-10 wasn’t portable. Like any other turntable of its time, it used RCA jacks and needed a ground wire, plus its own power cord. For compatability with modern equipment, an impedance matcher was also recommended for the RCA connections.

Everything still works 40 years later. There are infra-red sensors and red lights both above and underneath the turntable. They automatically sense whether the record is 12-inch, 10-inch, or 7-inch, depending on whether the record is an LP, EP, or a single and adjust the speed to 33 or 45 rpm accordingly. There are manual overrides to this, but it usually works without me doing much of anything. I often use the manual overrides for skipping tracks. Most other times, after closing the lid, I press “Start” and the turntable figures out the rest.

All well and good, but my two new vinyl records were clear, tinted vinyl. Barrier was clear pink; and the EP Dead Center was clear baby blue. The clear vinyl meant that the lights underneath the turntable which allowed auto-detection of the record size were shining through the vinyl and sending false signals to the central processor. After a couple of minutes of play, the record started skipping during the first track. I found that if I stuck some sheets of paper underneath the record to block out the lights, the play was normal again.

I am willing to put up with this, since the vast majority of vinyl records are black, and not see-through, including the ones I have. So, the turntable will do its job most of the time. At least there is a work-around, even though it has the side effect of static buildup on the paper, but that may have been because the ground wire was a bit loose.

Braindead iTunes Music Classifications

I have about 100 albums by some 66 artists from iTunes, not counting various artist compilations. Many of them are just 1 or 2 tracks off an album, but a good deal of these are complete album downloads.

Bouncy house?
My immediate mental image when I heard of the genre “Bounce House”. I am pretty sure this is wrong 🙂

The “My Genre” classifications are braindead on iTunes. Some failed 20-something computer programmer was probably asked by their boss at Apple to do the classifications, as though any talentless hack could do it. It didn’t occur to the execs that you have to know a fair bit about the music you categorize, and not over-categorize, which, as iTunes demonstrates, only makes the problem worse. And I’ve wondered: what exactly is the “bounce house” genre?

Here are some classifications of recordings that have clearly not been
thought through:

Enya

Enya, apparenlty, is “Pop” music. There is not much separating her Celtic influenced brand of electronica from acts like Vangelis or other progressive acts. It is just that her music sells. In iTunes, “Pop” doesn’t seem so much as a genre as an economic category.

Discography | Complete catalogue | Flora & Fauna - record ...“The Chrysler” is apparently “Rock”. There they are in my collection alongside Hendrix, Supertramp, CSN, Rolling Stones, U2, and so on. All of the latter groups could well be classed under “Classic Rock”, as it is now known, but here they are as well. What is Chumbawumba doing under “Rock”?

Judy Collins

Judy Collins, who is best known as a top-rated singer of other people’s music, is here under “Singer-Songwriter”, with her album of nothing but Leonard Cohen tunes. Clearly, Collins is more singer than songwriter. That is not a slight on Collins – she is amazing and deserves to be heard by a wide audience.

Michael Pagliaro

Michael Pagliaro “Rainshowers” classed as “American Traditional Rock”. Problem is, Pagliaro hails from Montreal in Canada. Why are they splitting “Rock” into these fine classifications anyway? They do have “Rock”.

If you like splitting hairs as much as iTunes does, this is “Alternative”, or “Indie”. They placed this album  under “Rock”.

The “Alternative” genre: Edwyn Collins, The Deceberists, … outside of iTunes, “Alternative” is not really “Alternative”. It is just another form of mainstream Rock which makes the average consumer feel like they are listening to something edgy. Collins doesn’t sound too different from Bowie. Bowie was edgy (take note of the past tense); and there is not much special about The Decemberists, except that they are not as well known as other Top-40 acts back in 2015, but still highly talented. Why are acts like these not as well-known? Ask the record execs. And apparently, acts such as The Chrysler and Chumbawumba are not alternative?

Kidnap’s “Cold Water” album.

“Dance”: A-Trak & Wongo, Kidnap, and Boyz Noize are all electronic. They are hypnotic tunes and would not be considered recognizable by any general audience. More correct genres are House, and Techno. Kidnap have other recordings listed under “House”, such as their single “Cold Water”. The music is danceable in the sense of being at a rave in your early 20s and not knowing what you are dancing to.

Maria Bamford

Maria Bamford is a charmingly strange standup comedian who has different albums classed separately under “Comedy” and “Standup Comedy”. Her comedy is all standup comedy in all of the albums I have of her, but being classed under these two categories is unhelpful.

I found one of the genres that seem to have no problems is “New Age”, but when sorted my albums by Artist, apparently “New Age” is an artist!

The Hobbit: A Fan Edition

Part of the video thumbnail promoting The Cardinal Cut version of The Hobbit.

The Hobbit: The Cardinal Cut, A YouTube video edited by a person named Cardinal West, has boiled down the eight or so hours of The Hobbit down to about half that purely by editing the original down from the NewLine Cinema version, and posted an article about it, and offered a way to download your own MP4 copy for free, on his website. You can get all this info by entering “The Hobbit – The Cardinal Cut” into the YouTube search box.

He requests emphatically that the only people who should be downloading the edited movie are people who already purchased a copy of the trilogy, either digitally or through various video disks. For the record, I have had my blu-ray copy of the extended editions of all three parts for some years, and thus downloaded and viewed the Cardinal version of the movie in full.

Cardinal is The Hobbit without the bullshit. Gone are the distractions that add nothing to the story, such as the love triangle between Tauriel, Legolas, and the dwarf Kili. It didn’t exist in the book, and adds not one iota to the plot. The Battle of the Five Armies (the battle in The Hobbit, not the third part in the movie sequel), which took barely 5 pages in the original book, which has thus been variously nicknamed “Battle of the 5 Pages” or “Battle of the 5 Studios” (Warner, MGM, New Line Cinema, The Weinstein Company (yes, that Weinstein), and the Saul Zaentz Company) took up over 90 minutes in the third part of the trilogy. Natch, most of that was cut out as excessive in the Cardinal cut.

As for Cardinal, what remained was actually a pretty good and entertaining movie, with a story line that was much easier to follow. The parts of the film that needed gravitas were undiluted by distracting side plots that weren’t part of the original book, and it aided the overall quality of the film. I didn’t mind the occasional choppiness of the editing, since it all seemed engineered to draw my attention more to the story.

Chris Hartwell has been a faculty member of the school of Cinema and New Media Arts at Houston Baptist University since 2017.

There are other “fan edits” in existence, each with their own arrangements for downloading. Chris Hartwell did one in 2020, and in the video I saw which discussed his rationale for editing down The Hobbit, he was not clear on how a fan could  obtain a copy of his edited version. Hartwell claims that he was achieving more of a balance between the storyline of the original book and its adaptation to a movie, taking advantage of the power of film to embellish and add other dimensions to what was text. Hartwell appears to be making his money through Patreon crowdfunding. Cardinal is also funded through Patreon.